Thank you dear readers, for encouraging me to write the story of my horse, Lucky. I know there are others of you out there who probably can’t understand what all the interest is about, but this story is not only for horse lovers. It is for anyone who wants to, or already does believes in miracles.

Lucky was born at home. My husband and I imprinted him within the first 6 hours, which meant rubbing him all over except where we wanted him to maintain sensitivity, like where our legs would eventually press against him to give him cues while riding. This process of bonding is probably what saved his life.

As a colt, Lucky came along with me on rides without a lead. When he was 5 months, a friend of mine and I rode through a field with him catching up from behind. At one point he stopped to graze and didn’t see that we had walked around the other side of a barbed wire fence. His head came up with a start when he realized we had gone beyond his comfort zone. He cantered towards us, straight towards the fence. I yelled, “Stop Lucky!” but he didn’t understand. By the time he saw the fence it was too late. The wire snagged and twisted his right hind hock as he fell on his back to the ground.

I jumped off of Meg, then 3, and ran over to him. Somehow he sensed this was serious and he stayed still. I told my friend to stay calm and spoke with strong intention to Lucky, saying, “Don’t move.” I left on Meg at a gallop to get some wire cutters from home. When I returned, 20 minutes later, he still had not moved a muscle. I wondered if his leg was broken. Bending down to him I said, “You can get up now, Lucky.” As if on cue, he rolled over and stood up. He limped home with me. His back was twisted, but I realized that the bonding at birth probably saved his life.

Four years later I was riding and driving Lucky. He had had many years of physical therapy but his back was still “S” shaped. I driving him in a van to get his saddle fitted and when I had to stop suddenly. The jolt pushed him beyond his pain threshold. From that moment on he pinned his ears back at any approaching human (except me) and lunged at them, trying to bite or kick.

I was distraught, and asked our good friends, John and Sue Greenall, if they would take him for a while. Sue is a horse whisperer and they have about 10 horses. A week later, Sue called to tell me that of the top 10 most dangerous horses she had ever worked with, Lucky was number 1. She could barely get a halter on him without him trying to bite her. She said the only place on his body where he respected pain was his face. Every other part must have hurt so much for so long that he didn’t even notice if they tried to inflict pain to keep themselves and him safe. They would have to gain his trust that they meant to help, not harm him before he could start his weekly acupuncture, chiropractics and massage.

I went to see him a month later, and they still hadn’t been able to get close enough to give him any treatments. “Perhaps you can hold him while the acupuncturist attempts to put needles in,” she said. I held the lead rope very close to his halter and looked straight into his eyes. Sue cautioned me, “A quick snap of the whip on his forehead will be the only way you can handle him if he tries to bite.” The acupuncturist stepped on a stool next to him and Lucky’s eyes widened.  He struck out with his hind leg and the man jumped out of the way just in time.

Lucky stared at me as if to ask, “What are they doing to me Mom?” I flashed on his accident and tears flooded my eyes. I saw his early suffering as my own, like when I was forced out of the room by my siblings or made to eat alone. In that moment Lucky and I connected and I felt us both relax. We were healing together.

For the next 9 months I came every 4 weeks to monitor his progress. Sue had the genius to put him in a field with 4 other geldings and tell him, “Lucky, you either need to shape up or you’re never going home.” As if he heard her, he emerged from the field and pushed right past her to get on the van. When she told me this story I cried. I knew what it was like to yearn for the herd at home.

He showed demonstrable progress the next month, allowing acupuncture and chiropractics every week. He loved his weekly massage and I could relate. Each time I left he stood at the near edge of the pasture, looking at me as if to say, “Can’t you take me home yet?” It was all I could do to tear myself away.

Come April he developed a benign cyst on his neck, the size of a watermelon. The vet had to lance it. When Sue told me over the phone my first thought was, all the toxins of the physical and psychological pain have come to a head. I knew this was a milestone.

The final test came in May, when Lucky had to cross the stream to eat hay with the other horses. He was deathly afraid of the water. Perhaps it reminded him of the fence that caused his pain. For an entire day he stood on the near side, whinnying for John to bring him hay, for the grass hadn’t grown in yet, and for the horses to rejoin him. Sue and John had the wisdom to let his stomach urge him past his fear.

I did not know this was going on because I was in California doing a form of sand tray therapy, to work through some childhood stories about fearing I could not get past the point of failure. My therapist had a huge collection of miniature animals, items from nature, fantasy figures, and more, on little shelves to choose from. I placed them as my imagination led me. I had just laid a fence on its side in a little valley of sand with a horse straddling either side when my phone rang. It was Sue.

“Lucky just crossed the stream.” She was so excited she was practically tripping over her words. “He held out for a whole day but he finally did it. I think he’s ready to come home.”

I couldn’t believe the synchronicity.  All I could say was, “We really are connected.” I didn’t tell her at the time that I was crossing over to some new place in my own life, as represented in the toy horse over the fence, but I knew that Lucky and I were doing it together, 3,000 miles apart.

In June Lucky came home. He was so happy to get off the trailer he practically backed into me, but he couldn’t run. He couldn’t even trot. The absence of pain in his body felt foreign to him and he had to learn everything again from the beginning. The left side of his barrel had had nerve damage and was so numb he had hundreds of fly bites. But he was home.

Today, after miles and miles of walking, slow trotting, and finally starting to canter again, Lucky can do everything. He rides on trails, does extended trots, canters up hills, drives the carriage singly or in a pair, and can jump over low fences and do dressage. He’s so proud of being able to join the other horses that he has even learned some new tricks. Look at this video of him doing Passage, (emphasis on the last syllable,) which is an upper level dressage move of an extremely elevated trot. He even does a little Piaf! (Prancing in place.) His back is now straight as an arrow.

VIDEO: Eileen doing Passage on Lucky

Lucky’s story is nothing short of a miracle. He has taught me that anything is possible, if you put enough love into it.


What miracle have you witnessed in your life?



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19 Responses to Lucky

  1. Susan Pollans says:

    Lucky’s story is truly amazing. However, the part of this that totally struck me in a more visceral way is the part of Lucky and you “healing” at the same moment while you were working with a therapist in California. I can’t find a word to describe how deep your connection is with Lucky. But you are lucky to have him in your life.

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      I think that the bond between animal and human is a beautiful mystery. So glad you enjoyed the story.

  2. Lovely passage, Eileen!

    It’s a pleasure to watch you and Lucky in harmony – moving as one in your dressage practice. There’s something noble and brave about Lucky, and that kind of love is so empowering.

    These days it is good to see someone outside enjoying what they do so well.

    Reading about the adventures and activities your siblings shared growing up was one of my favourite parts of your memoir – a highly recommended read.

    As you know, one of my main concerns is so many ‘inside’ children, and their families in this digital age, moving throughout the day from one electronic screen to the next, and seldom unplugging to get outside and enjoy the natural world.

    No miracles to share at the moment, just wanted to express my appreciation for your post before I venture out for a long walk with our dog on this wintery day.

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      Hi Kerry, For some reason my first attempt to answer you didn’t come through. I appreciate your shared commitment to helping children get outside and off line. Also, thank you for your comment about the parts about my siblings growing up. Siblings are such important mirrors, even when we don’t like what we see! I’m feel truly grateful to have worked through so much with mine. Best wishes to you and enjoy the great outdoors! Eileen

      • Having attempted dressage early in life, I was moved by your video clip and the synchronicity with which you and Lucky moved together in passage.

        Feel deeply it is this harmony, as well as early bonding and the trust he has in you, that keeps you heart connected no matter how much distance seems to separate you. A lesson for us all.

        I have also found this focus useful in mindfulness meditation – synchronizing mind, body and heart.

        Thank you, Eileen, for your understanding words when I veered off track into my children and nature concern – sometimes I feel like a one-trick pony, and so few people want to hear this.

  3. My eyes are tearing. How beautiful and wise. Thank you.

  4. louisegil5 says:

    Dear Eileen – I was following your every word as if I were there witnessing your miracle with Lucky! Your story was beautiful and filled with mutual love, trust, and great heart. It reminded me of my first cat Sophie, a tiger tabby who was abandoned by a family that moved away. One day, I parked my car in the driveway and this stripped wonder came running to me talking a blue streak; I picked her up and that sealed our love, however the owners of the duplex told me NO ANIMALS! I ignored this rule. Within one year Sophie stopped eating so I took her to the emergency vet who told me she has a very scary kidney function (due to drinking leaking anti-freeze under a car when she was “working the block”– and probably wouldn’t last). I asked to sit in her cage with her while they administered fluids; stroked her and expressed my love for her with encouragement. I took her to a Danish-born Vet who told me, if she starts to eat, then she will live. He taught me how to deliver subcutaneous fluids and how to order my own bags and needles (he also called me daily to support my initial fear of hurting her). When I brought her home, I put a Tibetan chant CD on and sat on the couch writing her a letter–begging her to go to at least one of the bowls to eat. I placed that letter under her cushion with a rose quartz stone shaped like a heart. Much to my total amazement, within minutes she rose to take her first bite! For 7 years thereafter I gave her fluids twice daily, bringing in my two friends (her “wet nurses”) to team up and continue the care when I had to travel for work. Many friends and family members thought I was crazy to spend my time and energy this way. I considered it a form of “holy” work and privilege. Sophie stayed still with every treatment and even purred. She taught me that love, kindness, tender care is an essential component in my life and that love heals. She healed me as much as I healed her. Thank you for Lucky’s story. It moved me deeply!

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      Dear Louise, your story brought tears to my eyes! I love the rose quartz idea, the letter and the Tibetan chant CD!!! What a great heart and imagination you have, and it all worked! Blessings, Eileen

  5. Elaine M. Naddaff says:

    Hi Eileen, Lucky was lucky, indeed and how fortunate to be blessed with the name Lucky!!! Your story made me sigh and shed a tear. The miracle of healing is the result of constant care and
    therapy. Bravo to you and all those who took pains to help Lucky heal. If animals could talk, Lucky would thank you no doubt. My first semester my second year at college, I began riding lessons.
    I was taken by the image of riding along the beach, wind and sun and all. The horse and I did
    not get beyond the third lesson because she/he stepped on my foot–ugh… no comment necessary.

  6. eileenrockefeller says:

    Elaine, you make me laugh! I know how much it hurts when a horse steps on your foot. But it does make one quick to move them out of the way! Sorry you didn’t continue, but horses aren’t for anyone. How fortunate we all are that there are many choices for companions and healers. Take care, Eileen

  7. cynthia mackay says:

    The luckiest part of Lucky’s life was the luck of getting you as a master.
    When I die I wish to be reincarnated as one of your horses. xo

    • eileenrockefeller says:

      …Only if I can be one of your motorcycles! Here’s to you and Warren, hoping he’ll be back riding with you before long.

  8. Few people understand the depth of emotion and insight animals have. Thank you for illustrating it so beautifully here.

  9. eileenrockefeller says:

    Thank you Bette, for writing. Animals do play a unique roll in our lives and, whether a horse, a dog, or a bird, they all stand to teach us about ourselves and the importance of standing out of the way of judgment.

  10. Phyll says:

    My heart was in my mouth as I read your account of Lucky. Running into barbed wire and getting snagged was almost more than I could bear reading. For, I had a similar accident driving Dancer last July, when he fell, flipped our cart (and me) then bolted across a field with cart strapped to his back. Thank God there was no barbed wire (as there often is, in the country, across fields). Long story short: a farmer came to my rescue, we intercepted Dancer trotting quickly down the road, cart still attached but one wheel missing, and calmed him down. Another farmer ran out and drove our cart back to the farm where I board Dancer, and I walked my pony home, talking to him all the while, thanking God we were both all right. Another miracle.

    After having met and driven Lucky, I feel affection for him and, so, this story was really hard to read. I’m so happy he recovered (indeed a miracle) and that, through your love and beautiful healing energy, he has made a sound recovery (as have you). Thank goodness! Hugs to you BOTH! xxxoo

  11. Dear Phyll, I’m so glad Dancer is okay after that accident. Has there been any residual fear? Sometimes it can take awhile to return to their former selves. I’m glad neither of you was hurt. It’s amazing how quickly things can happen. Stay safe! Eileen

  12. strubbles says:

    Thank you, Eileen, for sharing Lucky’s journey. As his caretaker through this period, I witnessed a depth of understanding in a horse that I had never seen before. I know that your close bond with him was what made it possible for him to rise above his physical pain in order to allow us to help him. It was not easy, as you know. I would like to tell everyone that when I see Lucky, he ALWAYS turns to me and we share our special relationship in healing. He is able to communicate “thank you” to me. Eileen, without your faith in him none of this would have happened and he truly is a miracle horse.

  13. eileenrockefeller says:

    Lucky’s story is a great reminder of the power of community to help augment the healing process. I’m so grateful to you, and always will be. Happy New Year!

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